PBS NewsHour

While we were Kings Canyon National Park I got an email from a reporter in the DC area asking if they could do a story. I emailed back saying, 'Absolutely!' She had heard about our story from a colleague who is a UVa grad. The UVa grad had recently met one of my former colleagues and classmates, Woody, who I worked with at the University of Virginia. When I saw his name referenced, I trusted the connection and failed to take notice of the news station. In my mind I figured National Park centennial, Washington DC, two UVa grads, it seemed like a good local feel good story.

We emailed and tried to pin down a time to chat on the phone. After a late driving session we had arrived in Death Valley near midnight and set up our tents in the overflow dirt parking lot of Sunset campground. When I woke up in the morning and realized that I actually had phone service I emailed the reporter at 7:30am to see if she could chat on the phone. She responded in ten minutes and said, I’ll call you at 8am. Done and done, we talked and she said she would send a follow up email requesting pictures after she had a chance to cut the audio into something that she thought would work.

While we had phone service in Death Valley, we didn’t have Internet good enough to upload pictures. She got back to me with a list of photos that they would need and we planned to make a stop on our drive from Death Valley to Great Basin National Park.

As we were driving and talking about photos Trevor asked what news station it was, as his family lives in northern Virginia. I scrolled back to the top of the email and noticed it was PBS NewsHour and asked if it was something that they watched. He informed me that it was a nationally syndicated show. 'Oh...' I said.

I also didn’t realize that, for at least part of our drive, we would be driving on Nevada 50 which in July of 1986 was named by Life Magazine as America’s ‘Loneliest Road’ due to the lack of anything along the road. The name is accurate. No Starbucks, rarely towns, and signs saying ‘Next Services 153 miles’. As we drove our phone service cut in and out, Verizon you need to change your commercials. Things started to look grim, was there any wifi between Death Valley and Great Basin?!

I looked on Google maps to see the towns that we would be passing through. Tonopah, Nevada was the first one. Google: ‘Wifi in Tonopah, Nevada’. The first hit was the Tonopah Brewing Company. I called to ask if they had wifi that was capable of uploading a couple of photos. We were in luck.

We pulled into the brewery and my computer was nearly dead, and while I had 7 GB of open space it wouldn’t accommodate the 16GB of photos on my camera. I sat in the car charging my computer and exported photos to an external hard drive so that I could make space on the computer. My computer was at 60% battery. Would that be enough? I was ravenous, so it didn’t matter.

I headed inside, where Trevor had grabbed a spot and sat down for a beer and a BBQ sandwich. I hopped on the wifi and began uploading photos. Did I mention that I had filled up my Dropbox five days earlier? Worst. I was attaching the files in emails and sending them as quickly as possible.

The bar closed at 9:00pm, at 9:30pm my computer was still sending photos. Luckily the guy working there was kind enough to let us hang out. My computer was open and uploading photos while we chatted. He was such a cool dude, he lived in Harlem in the 1970's and has lived in 46 of the 50 United States. We learned about the solar energy plant down the road, it's called Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. He had made the transition from cook to brewer, we asked how it was going and he described brewing as akin to cooking soup. You have to add the right ingredients at the right time. There is, of course, some research to be done, but he seemed to enjoy learning the new craft. We finished uploading pictures close to 10pm and still had four hours left to drive. He warned us that we were in open range country so we should watch out for cows and horses as they could and often would walk out onto the road. We decided that the imminent danger of hitting livestock meant we should load up on caffeine at a gas station. We hopped back on the road shortly after 10pm and arrived at Great Basin close to 2:30am. I unrolled my sleeping bag and slept in the drivers seat. Was it worth it, you ask? I'll let you be the judge...

Here's the article: 'These guys quit their day jobs to visit every single national park'

Here's the video: 'Pair Tackles 59 national parks in 59 weeks'